Last night there was a sea change in American late-night comedy. Young South African comic Trevor Noah took over at The Daily Show from the esteemed Jon Stewart. There’s been a lot of chatter about whether he was the right appointment (he’s not a woman, he’s black, he’s not American, he has a funny accent, he’s made some crappy jokes on Twitter) since it was announced 6 months ago, but last night was the one night that mattered.
An explanation – I only watched the first 10 minutes. That’s all Comedy Central thinks I’m allowed because I, like Trevor, am a foreigner. I live in the UK where apparently we’re only allowed to watch new American satire at the whim of tv schedulers – originally broadcast on More4 but then dropped, then broadcast by Comedy Central UK from 2012 until the middle of May 2015, and YouTube helpfully tells me the full episode is not available in my country. I pay to watch Sky tv, so I pay for Comedy Central UK. Ultimately I am supporting that channel. Tell me why exactly endless repeats of Friends are more worthwhile than new content. Oh, but they’re British – they don’t care about news from America. Well that’s a) just plain wrong b) The Daily Show has always had global content and c) and now a foreigner is in the chair! It angers me as you can tell, but I’m told there are various crafty ways around this block which Comedy Central UK are forcing me to seek out.
Anyway, Noah looked delighted to be there and maintained his cheeky smile for the whole bit. The joke about being America’s new black step-dad worked really well highlighting the awkwardness of someone, anyone, other than Jon Stewart behind the big blue desk. He worked well as the straight-man with correspondent Jordan Klepper, as Klepper panicked about how he’d pay his bills if Jon’s replacement was awful (“Dammit he’s a fucking idiot. Honey we’re going to have to sell the condo”). Can’t wait to see if Larry Wilmore appears as Senior Black Correspondent and how Noah will work with Jessica Williams (Senior Beyoncé Correspondent). I think the discussions around race issues in America are set to get much more interesting with a black South African asking the questions.
Critics have said that Noah’s interview with actor and comedian Kevin Hart was rubbish. So what? Jon Stewart knew that was the section of the show people would fast forward through. And some of the Pope jokes weren’t funny. But Noah has to ease into this and it takes time. Remember how toe-curlingly awkward it was when ex-Daily Show correspondent John Oliver started out on Last Week Tonight? 12 months later he’s very definitely found his groove and the show is Emmy nominated. Don’t stress America – keep watching and it’ll all work out fine. Hopefully I might be allowed to watch too.